Saturday, 5 December 2015

This Is What It’s Like To Sue The Church Of England For Discrimination

Patrick Strudwick writes for BuzzFeed News: This Is What It’s Like To Sue The Church Of England For Discrimination.

“Canon Jeremy Pemberton was the first British clergyman to marry another man. What happened next sparked a landmark legal battle. He tells BuzzFeed News how the fight for equality became a fight for his sanity, career, and reputation.”

The article begins:

There is a hand-stitched cushion cover that sits, unfinished, in Jeremy Pemberton’s house. He began sewing the design when he could not get out of bed, when he had sunk so far into despair that focusing on each tiny stitch was the only way to stay sane.

The story of how he sank, off work and resisting thoughts of suicide, reaches far beyond the walls of the home he shares with the man he loves. It is the story of what happens when you take on the Church of England. And it is one that Pemberton has never revealed in full – until now.

The case of Canon Jeremy Pemberton, daubed across newspapers and television channels, has been reported so widely that many already know what happened to the first British clergyman to marry someone of the same sex: that he was stripped of his powers as a priest, unable to conduct official duties, and then barred from a job as an NHS hospital chaplain. As a result, he took the Church of England to an employment tribunal on a charge of discrimination.

But what has gone untold is the inner story behind the landmark case, and, remarkably, the household name that was backing him…

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 5 December 2015 at 10:30am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation

Beyond rant. The sickening flavour of Church of England checkered games of pretend-politics vs. the honorable reality and quest for TRUTH by Jeremey Pemberton taints the ABC/ABY, various Bishops and everyday churchgoers again today. The great squirming fortress of a SHAME/SLANDER defense is the name of this particular Church of England speciality.

Leonard Clark aka Leonardo Ricardo, Central America

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Saturday, 5 December 2015 at 1:42pm GMT

I don't see how establishment can survive the revelation of these details.

Posted by: Iain mclean on Saturday, 5 December 2015 at 7:05pm GMT

Buzzfeed did a really good job.

Posted by: Kate on Saturday, 5 December 2015 at 10:37pm GMT

Institutional homophobia's so entrenched in the Church of England, and thanks to the extent of the complicity, the will to fight it is so absent, that sadly, I think the institution's past saving.

Best outcome from this bleak situation is for the Church of England to fall as quickly as possible. Then, perhaps, something good can arise from the rubble, a phoenix that can go some way towards repairing the damage done in God's name.

Given the spiraling attendance, the end shouldn't be too far off.

Posted by: James Byron on Saturday, 5 December 2015 at 10:47pm GMT

Let us give honor and thanks to Jeremy Pemberton for his lonely but righteous crusade.

It is hard to take on the powers and principalities.

Jeremy P = Jeremy Prophet.

Posted by: Jeremy non P on Sunday, 6 December 2015 at 12:24am GMT

Excellent article which shows how the Church of England manufactures homophobia and then softens it somewhat. That the institution says it would have accepted a civil partnership shows that they want to stigmatize same-sex couples as inferior. It also recalls Nietzsche saying that Christianity inculcates guilt and then offers confession, creating a problem and then offering a self-serving solution.

The unequal application of the rules by the bishops is another big problem.

David Cameron is to blame for coming up with such a silly law which quadruple-locks the Church of England.

That the church spent several hundred thousand pounds defending discrimination is about all I need to know about Anglicanism in England.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Sunday, 6 December 2015 at 4:46am GMT

A very sad story of Jeremy Pemberton's abandonment by the Church of England. Another sad story: David Ould's demeaning comments about Jeremy.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 6 December 2015 at 9:36am GMT

David Ould's comments are especially sad in light of his brother's struggle with his own sexuality. If you'd expect anyone to show Jeremy some empathy, it's him, even if he does consider his hands tied by scripture.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 6 December 2015 at 1:45pm GMT

GPG: It's really unfair to say that "David Cameron is to blame." The quadruple lock is there at the insistence of the Church authorities themselves. The Coalition Government initially intended for same-sex marriage to be civil marriage only, but a range of religious denominations objected, because they wanted to join the party. So instead there's a more complicated set of procedures for religious denominations to opt in if they wish. The C of E is in a special position because of its established status---had it been prepared to recognise and conduct same-sex marriages nothing would have delighted the Government more than including it. To go over a lot of old ground, the proportion of people who actually care about what the church authorities say about this is small. The interesting question is whether the publicity of the awful treatment that Jeremy Pemberton had will finally move some of the more "liberal" bishops to break ranks and say what they actually think.

Jeremy himself says that he's fallen out of love with the Church of England but not with the Church of God. He's by no means the only one. It's a dangerous things for those in leadership when people start feeling that way.

As for Ian's remark about Establishment---Establishment such as it is works because other denominations and faith communities tacitly or openly feel that the Church of England in some way speaks for them too. This is fine if the C of E retains its old-fashioned "broad" outlook. But if and when others say, at the highest level, "not in our name" then Establishment will crumble further.

Posted by: Turbulent priest on Sunday, 6 December 2015 at 3:49pm GMT

David Ould implies that the rules in the Church of England are uniform. From what I have read, bishops have the discretion to look the other way or discipline priests who marry same-sex partners. He assumes that the church is monolithic and that it is ruled by the mostly straight white men in mitres.

Is this the same David Ould who has a blog on which he says that marriage equality activists are wrong to say that marriage is about love? Total nonsense.

Churches don't like giving up their monopolies on people's lives. In the 19th Century, it was vicars refusing to bury Methodists in churchyards. Some things don't change. I am referring to Thomas Laqueur's excellent book The Work of the Dead.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Sunday, 6 December 2015 at 5:52pm GMT

Why on earth should anyone give two hoots about what David Ould thinks?

Posted by: FrDavidH on Sunday, 6 December 2015 at 10:39pm GMT

"The interesting question is whether the publicity of the awful treatment that Jeremy Pemberton had will finally move some of the more 'liberal' bishops to break ranks and say what they actually think."

I doubt it, Turbulent Priest; and even if they did, it'd be 30 years too late. The time to fight was in 1987, when the Higton motion came before General Synod. The second so-called liberals on Synod voted through a modified form with near-unanimous support, they'd already conceded defeat. The truly depressing thing isn't that establishment liberals lost the fight against homophobia, but that they surrendered without one.

From that day on, homophobia was the official teaching of the church; and thanks to the suffocating grip of collegiality, no bishop felt free to simply condemn discrimination on the basis of a person's sexuality. Anyone who does speak out is hamstrung, either by having to challenge doctrine, or by trying to nudge past it.

Evangelicals like Tony Higton fight for their beliefs: so-called liberals, who hate conflict more than they hate injustice, appease them. Appeasers lose before they've begun.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 7 December 2015 at 12:31am GMT

Turbulent Priest, David Cameron capitulated to the C of E insistence that it not have to allow church weddings for same-sex couples, so it would not have to compete with liberal churches, who had already been denied their religious liberty to celebrate civil partnerships. The established church did not represent the Quakers, the Unitarians, and Reform Judaism. On the other hand, by quadruple-locking the C of E, the PM made them look totally out of touch. The C of E will only represent the forces of inequality. In any case, it is a big mess.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Monday, 7 December 2015 at 5:46am GMT

This reminds me of an event which took place in my flat in Sherwood Nottingham in about 2002. The occasion was the visit by the diocesan director of ordinands who had come to interview me as a first stage of the selection process for ordination. He asked what did my husband do for a living. I thought what shall I say. I followed my heart and told the truth that my husband was in fact my wife. I had transitioned from male to female in 1999. That was the beginning of the emotional torture which was to immediately ensue and ended about a year later with the bishop informing me that he would never issue a PTO. I left the church in 2013. A story I have never told. Dr Claire Jenkins

Posted by: Claire Jenkins on Monday, 7 December 2015 at 7:12am GMT

“I realised that I was doing absolutely the right thing for somebody I love.”

And that's all I need to hear.


Posted by: Susannah Clark on Monday, 7 December 2015 at 8:03am GMT

Where are you all getting your David Ould references from?
And why does anyone bother to read what he says?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 7 December 2015 at 9:12am GMT

The references are to David Ould's comments on the Buzzfeed article.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Monday, 7 December 2015 at 2:45pm GMT

Thank you Peter! I missed those.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 7 December 2015 at 4:15pm GMT

I believe in the power of stories. Why don't all LGBT people who have suffered at the hands of organised religion tell their stories of hurt. This will I think change hearts and minds.

Posted by: clairejxx on Tuesday, 8 December 2015 at 5:58am GMT

I am so sorry to hear your story, Claire. I was told the best part of two years ago, after some time in the discernment for Ordination process that I could not continue further unless I would agree, as a gay man, to live within Issues in Human Sexuality. Rather than cross my fingers behind my back and say "yes," I refused. This triggered a breakdown from which I've still not fully recovered. The church I attend is wonderful and supportive. But lately I've had to force myself out of bed on a Sunday morning - something I never had to do before, even as a small child.

People with depth of spiritual maturity seem increasingly to become solitaries, or to join communities as third-order or companions, or become involved in "new monasticism." They are not finding the depth of spirituality in the organised churches that they need.

Posted by: David Beadle on Tuesday, 8 December 2015 at 11:32am GMT

The nasty rhetoric of the church clearly tells LGBTQ young people that there's something terribly wrong with them. It emboldens bullies to hound them in school and in social media. Suicide rates among these teens is higher than straight kids in both the US and the UK. In both of our countries, a large percentage of homeless teens are LGBTQ teens who have been cast out of their "religious" homes. The unyielding, exclusive rhetoric of CoE contributes to this harm.

Within the church in the last year or so, CoE has cast out a gay lay readers (one of the Jeremy's, not Pemberton), mistreated Jeremy P., and created a ridiculous document on marriage.

Jesus tells us that we can tell the real prophets from the false ones by the fruits of their labor. The pain and agony created by CoE speaks for itself (except that people need to make this known).

CoE is aligned with human rights abusers in Uganda, Nigeria, and Kenya, as well as those nasty conservative "Christian" groups we have here in the US. Somehow that doesn't seem quite right for a country that has such excellent laws for equality and against hate speech.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 10 December 2015 at 7:14pm GMT

Don't you all just love Pope Francis' comments about the pastoral need for 'Mercy before Judgement'? Sounds like the Gospel to me!

Granted, the Roman Catholic Church also has a long way to go on issues of gender and sexuality, but it seems the new Pontiff wants his Church to move on from archaic shibboleths - in order to really embrace Good Pope John XXIII's forward-looking renewal movement at Vatican II, which had been stifled by the beurocracy.

Come, Holy Spirit! Infuse your Anglican Churches with the fire of your love, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 10 December 2015 at 10:53pm GMT

I feel the balance needs to be corrected on this particular thread. Jeremy Pemberton, as all clergy, was fully aware of Church policy and the relevant exemptions in law, before he entered into secular marriage. To that extent no one can complain about the judgement. It was a foregone conclusion.

Posted by: Benedict on Friday, 11 December 2015 at 8:16am GMT

Benedict, your comment is a necessary corrective in a situation where much emotional heat is being raised, notably by an article which was designed to tug at heartstrings. Clergy know the Church's policy. In this respect, ++York's action against lay reader Jeremy Timm was more offensive.
What is clear, however, is that the present Church policy (which I despise wholeheartedly) is being applied at the whim of individual bishops against gay clergy and ordinands. Some ordinands with same-sex partners are supported and sent for training. Others are told they must live as celibates, no matter what suffering it causes them, to get their bishop's approval. This is disgraceful on at least two counts. Firstly, traditional teaching is that celibacy, like marriage, is a vocation from God. Therefore it cannot be generated at will by individuals, and it cannot rightly be compelled. Secondly, the demand for celibacy is being made by bishops who, almost without exception, are married to a partner of the opposite sex and therefore not, one presumes, leading celibate lives. These people are laying a burden upon gay Christians which they themselves are not prepared to touch with their finger. As I remember, our Lord Jesus Christ had stern words about such conduct.

Posted by: Barry on Friday, 11 December 2015 at 10:37am GMT

"Jeremy Pemberton, as all clergy, was fully aware of Church policy and the relevant exemptions in law, before he entered into secular marriage"

Well only just. If you remember, the Church had no policy until just before Equal Marriage became law. There was no 'policy' till February 14th that same year. I'm not even sure there's anything that we could dignify by the term 'policy' at present: there isn't, just a threatening letter from the HoB ominously mentioning oaths of canonical obedience.

My understanding is that when the 'Pastoral [sic] Letter' was disgorged from Church House, Jeremy had already been planning his marriage for some time. To think that most of us would have done otherwise than to continue with long made, much treasured plans is to have a rather severe (if not to say unrealistic) view of human nature.

If there is any culpability in this sorry mess it lies squarely with the House of Bishops for acting entirely at the fifty ninth second of the eleventh hour.

A reminder Benedict and Barry that this is not an abstract matter of legal principles; it is real people, real love, real hurt and real lives.

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Friday, 11 December 2015 at 5:41pm GMT

Benedict, you'd have a case if Church of England rules on marriage were clear, decided by its General Synod after fair debate, and consistently enforced; they're not, so you don't.

Posted by: James Byron on Friday, 11 December 2015 at 6:29pm GMT

"Mercy before Judgement" - Pope Francis - Advent

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 12 December 2015 at 12:01am GMT

God forbid that a religion of love should resort to tugging at heartstrings! What next? Babies born in hard situations? People being unjustly accused and executed because they were willing to take the rap for others?

We really need to get rid of all this emotional nonsense and approach love with the cold and emotionless analytical nature that is the true indicator of God's Mercy.

For instance, among other things, the level-headed belief that God's love would say, "He knew the consequences, be damned to good conscience. He got what he deserved."

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 15 December 2015 at 8:24am GMT
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